Mary Baldwin College, Heifetz Institute partner to enhance performance space

mary baldwin collegeMary Baldwin College and the Heifetz International Music Institute are joining forces on a new campaign called Take Your Seat, a key capital project to celebrate their partnership as they approach two milestones: Mary Baldwin’s upcoming 175th anniversary (in 2016–17), and the Heifetz Institute’s 20th anniversary. The two institutions have jointly created the campaign to raise funds for a renovation of the James D. Francis Auditorium, site of dozens of concerts, lectures, convocations, and classes each year on Mary Baldwin’s main campus.

“This is such an important moment for both Mary Baldwin and the Heifetz Institute as we celebrate our institutional milestones and our partnership,” said MBC President Pamela Fox. “Each of us is committed to contributing in a substantial way to the quality of life here in Staunton. Both MBC and Heifetz also emphasize student development, and we direct our resources to best serve our students. This project is a perfect combination of those two imperatives, allowing us to enhance the environment in which our students learn and in which our broader community comes together for cultural and intellectual events.”

Plans for the first phase of the project include installing new seats and efficient modern lighting, replacing the carpet, and repainting the walls. The first phase is scheduled to be completed in time for the first Heifetz concert of the summer 2016 season in early July. When feasible, a second phase would include enhancements to the performance area at the front of the auditorium.

“In Mary Baldwin and in Staunton we have found our true home,” said Daniel Heifetz, founder and artistic director of the Heifetz International Music Institute. “The institute chose to move here in 2012 because we felt that the values and strengths of the institute, the city, and the college, were in perfect alignment. The support of Mary Baldwin, the city of Staunton and this wonderful community of arts lovers and friends has exceeded all our expectations and hopes. Through this project, we are both delighted and honored to be able to give back to all who have welcomed and supported us.”

Aimé Sposato, American Council of Education Fellow at Mary Baldwin for the 2015–16 academic year and Shenandoah University’s associate dean for undergraduate studies and professor of voice, has been working closely with Mary Baldwin colleagues and the Heifetz staff to explore new aspects of the two organization’s partnership over the last several months.

“With this project we will be enhancing the overall experience in Francis Auditorium both year-round and for years to come,” said Sposato. “Whether it is a prospective student on an autumn college tour, an MBC student attending a springtime lecture, or anyone coming to a summertime Heifetz Institute concert to enjoy a performance by their remarkably talented string musicians from all over the world.”

Heifetz/PEG is another fruitful development arising out of the partnership, announced earlier this year. For the first time this summer, the Heifetz Institute is offering this three-week intensive summer program for gifted 8- to 13-year-old musicians, created in the spirit of MBC’s pioneering Program for the Exceptionally Gifted, or PEG, an accelerated program for students who have the intellectual capacity and maturity to begin college up to four years early.



Heifetz Institute and Mary Baldwin are working through the Community Foundation of Central Blue Ridge to raise $200,000 from donors with a special affinity for the arts. Contributors to the Take your Seat fundraising campaign will be recognized with their names on the seats in the auditorium. For more information about the plans and phases of the renovation and how to contribute, visit the Community Foundation’s website.

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